The term “home automation” has a wide variety of definitions these days. Generically, it is defined as the ability to control and automate the subsystems and devices that exist in our homes (i.e., Audio/Video, HVAC, lighting, door locks, security systems, surveillance systems, etc.) In fact, there are actually three different branches on the automation “tree” and they are quite different.
DIY – “Do it yourself” automation packages. These systems are sold as small niche’ packages that mainly control a specific subsystem (i.e., security system, lighting, HVAC, etc.). If you only need control of one or two subsystems these devices are adequate, but most do not allow for expansion to other subsystems. If you want additional control you would buy another DIY kit for that specific subsystem (i.e. lighting). The bad news is they work from different apps so that the operation of the subsystems isn’t seamless.There are devices and apps available that provide a “hub” for multiple subsystems communication combined under one control like “Wink“. So far these “bundled app” based subsystem control packages have had some major problems but they continue to press forward. All in all, if you don’t have patience and a real knack for electronics, DIY is not for you at this point.
SECURITY BASED AUTOMATION – Large national companies are attempting to expand their markets (i.e., Comcast Xfinity, ADT Pulse, AT&T, and Vivint). Most of these large companies have no history in automation but have large resources. Most are concentric around security and their core products (i.e. Comcast-Cable, AT&T- Uverse). They lease the equipment so it is inexpensive for clients to start a system, but long term costs are much higher than buying equipment outright. They have a fleet of trucks and most of the installers are trained to do specific types of installation with the equipment they sell, so there is virtually no customization to these systems since the installers are typically trained to follow a specific installation script. Integration with any existing technology in the home is not addressed since the automation equipment is not normally capable of controlling these systems, and most of the technicians lack the experience. Systems from these providers typically offer limited control over some of these subsystems: Security, lights, thermostats, and door locks. Control of AV devices, pool controls, access gates, mosquito misters, garage doors, etc., is not available.
REAL HOME AUTOMATION – Integration companies have traditionally used the legacy automation products like Crestron and Savant. These systems are robust and quite capable of controlling the most elaborate home automations systems. They both use programmable proprietary mainframe controllers and custom software for the operation of the automated subsystems and devices that are being used. The primary consumer barrier is the high cost to entry since the mainframe controllers are primarily designed for large projects. A few companies have addressed this “barrier to entry” like Leviton’s Bitwise and Control4 both which use a scalable platform that is modular. This allows the platform to grow to any size and capability. These platforms were developed to provide a more cost effective method for clients to achieve reliable control and automation of an entire home. With everything from security, lights, HVAC, door locks, Audio sources, TV’s, pool & spa controls, access gates, mosquito misters, garage doors, etc. All of which can be controlled from a touch screen, tablet, smartphone, or remote.
Bitwise & Control4 Automation
Here at Home Entertainment, Inc. we believe in simplifying lives based on unique lifestyles. That’s why we offer both Leviton Bitwise and Control4 automation controllers in our solutions mix. A basic Control4 or Bitwise automation package starts at $1099.00 retail. For that price it will allow the client to control four devices (i.e. TV, Receiver, Cable Box, and Blu-ray) with a remote control, tablet, or smartphone to operate the system. Features like lighting, HVAC, door locks, security, or Whole House Audio & Video control can all be added to these boxes at any time. And because of their modular IP design, you can put as many of these in your home as needed to give everyone remote, tablet, or smart phone control over the entire home. With a Bitwise or Control4 system, we can take all the guesswork out of controlling your entire system, or your entire home, and make interacting with your system genuinely fun. You can control and automate AV equipment, lights, HVAC, security, drapes, garage doors, door locks, access control, pool & spa controls, etc. In fact, any device that can be controlled by Infra-Red, RS232, or IP can be controlled by Bitwise or the Control4 platform. If you are only interested in automating a single system (like a home theater with lighting control) both Bitwise and Control4 work great. But we typically recommend the Bitwise controller because of its customizable interface. If your intent is to slowly build a robust automation system for your entire home, then we recommend the Control4 platform. The Control4 technology has challenged, and surpassed, the large legacy automation manufacturers like Crestron & Savant. Their features can be duplicated at a lower price using scalable technology, thus allowing the buyer to add to their system as their needs grow. In fact, CEPro magazine (the industry Bible) declared Control4 has become the number the one choice for AV Integrators in the U.S.